We think of the cottage or cabin as a place where we can be our truest, most authentic selves. For those lucky enough to own one, just knowing it awaits can sustain the soul through the workday grind.
In Escape, Roy MacGregor explores the powerful hold the wilderness, and the thought of our place in it, has on our imaginations. He weaves together chapters of personal history, telling of his family’s deep connection to the lakes and forests of central Ontario, and chapters that detail the evolution of the idea of wilderness in Canada and the history of “Cottage Country.” He shows that the Canadian wilderness meant freedom for many early settlers escaping privation and oppression in Europe. It meant a chance to create a paradise on earth to some early Utopians, and it meant a chance to profit from the desperate or gullible, such as at Cannington Manor in Saskatchewan and Brother Twelve’s City of Refuge on Vancouver Island.
In more recent times, the wilderness and the cottage have represented an escape from a technologically driven and hectic civilization – although too often we take the trappings of our urban lives with us to the detriment of our intended refuge. In cottage country, MacGregor suggests, we may be loving our wilderness to death.
This is a thoughtful, evocative, and often moving book about an essential part of the Canadian psyche by one of our best-loved writers.
Roy MacGregor’s books of adult non-fiction include the Canadian bestsellers Home Game (with Ken Dryden), The Home Team, shortlisted for the 1996 Governor General’s Award, and A Life in the Bush, which won the prestigious Rutstrum Award as the best book on the wilderness published in North America in 1995-2000. He lives in Kanata, Ontario.
Canadian Geographic‘s “Best of the Year” (Nature Writing): “With his affable approach, graceful writing and self-deprecating humour, MacGregor draws the reader into his cabin in the Ontario woods, where he seeks refuge from the pressures of urban life. Escape blends history, personal memoir and nature writing to explore the quintessential Canadian experience of communing with the wild.”
“MacGregor's intimate knowledge of and affection for the bush shines through every page. The result is a book that is moving, thought-provoking and, finally, convincing.
“This is an impressive book, not only because personal history is seamlessly integrated with historical and geographical information, not only because of the writer's journalistic eye for detail … but really because it is an exploration of the Canadian sensibility. In this respect, it can be compared with Atwood’s Survival.”
“Poetic.…Intensely readable.…This is a book for cottagers and condo dwellers to curl up with.…[A] charming weave of history, memoir and insight into the deep pull of the wilderness.”
–Globe and Mail
“Arresting, powerful writing.…This is the full concentrated involvement of mind and soul in conscious awareness of the passage of days, seasons, and years.”
–Quill & Quire
“Wonderful.…It's hard to even imagine anyone today who is writing more lyrically about Canada than Roy MacGregor. Escape is a simply marvelous hymn to our great outdoors, of which MacGregor, as the son and grandson of woodsmen, is an authentic part.…He gives us loving glimpses of time spent at his cottage, of searching for hidden lakes, finding a heron colony, of nature to be enjoyed rather than conquered.”
“Few [writers] have explored our intimate relationship with the outdoors so thoroughly.… In alternating chapters of personal experience and historical perspective, MacGregor charts our love-affair with nature, and he does it in prose that is as breezy and refreshing as a summer afternoon.”
– Montreal Gazette
“Enthralling.…With Escape, MacGregor clearly secures his reputation as one of Canada’s best-loved writers.…Escape is filled with charming personal stories that are subtly blended with the historic lure of nature in Canada.…MacGregor has a captivating way of bringing chapters, and in fact the entire book, to a thoughtful conclusion. He’s like someone who leads you along a heavily wooded trail and without warning walks you to a point where a wonderful view emerges – and there’s not a cloud in the sky.”